From company to company, interviews can vary dramatically. However, you’ll find that certain questions occur in nearly every one. Here’s our guide to the 5 most common interview questions, with advice on how to answer them.
Tell me about yourself
Most interviews start with a question such as this and it’s a nice gentle start to what can be an intense process. The question enables the interviewers to get a bit of background information about yourself. However, this isn’t a question where you just reel of the things that you like to do outside work. Your answer should be subtly focussed on what type of person you are and highlight the personal attributes you have that will make you the most suitable candidate for the job.
Tell me what you know about the role and our company
Answer this wrongly and you’ll seriously affect your chances of success in the interview. It’s crucial that you study the job spec and understand just what they are asking for in a candidate. Equally important is knowing about the company itself. We’re not talking about an encyclopaedic knowledge of its history, but having a good general idea of what they do, where and in what markets they operate, their key competitors and what makes them successful will all give off a good impression. Here’s a quick checklist:
- Structure - Are they a sole trader, partnership, limited company or a PLC?
- Finances - You can download basic financial information about a company from websites such as Duedil.com. Being able to quote figures like these will show you’ve really done your research.
- Services/Products - Don’t simply focus on the product or service you will be involved in. Ensure the interviewers know you understand the scale of the business and can see the ‘bigger picture’.
- Key customers, market trends and competitors - Read relevant trade publications and websites for this kind of information.
- Key staff - Look at both the company website’s ‘About us’ page and Linkedin to identify the key members of staff at your company. Don’t be afraid to look at your interviewer’s profile on Linkedin. It will help you work out what things they will be looking out for in an interview.
Why did you leave your last job?
Whether you left on good terms or bad terms, you should be positive and upbeat about it. Never criticize a former employer and simply focus on how you are looking forward to a new challenge and the opportunity to really get your teeth into something.
What would you consider are your greatest strengths?
This is where knowledge of the job spec is key. You should know exactly what key skills they are looking for, so it is these that you should be concentrating on. You may have strengths in other areas, but if they are not directly relevant to the job then they will only distract the interviewer.
What would you consider are your greatest weaknesses?
Always a difficult question and one that many people are tempted into answering that they don’t have any. This is of course untrue as we all have some weaknesses. This is where a good knowledge of the job spec comes in. For example, if you’re role is solely based in the UK with UK customers, you could say that you regret not being able to speak a foreign language. Or, pick something that can be construed as a positive, such as being a bit of a perfectionist or hating losing. Done in the right way, you can come out of these questions looking very good.
Follow our advice and your next interview will be so much easier!